Different hadiths exist regarding the martyrdom or passing away of Imam al-Mahdi (‘atfs), but because Imam Hasan al-Mujtaba (‘a) has said, “Each one of us Imams will either be poisoned or martyred,” the hadiths that indicate the Imam’s martyrdom can have preponderance over others that say otherwise.
Here, it will suffice to examine only a few pertinent hadiths.
Concerning the noble Qur’anic verse, “Then We gave you back the turn (to prevail) over them,”1 Imam as-Sadiq (‘a) said: “It means the revival of Imam al-Husayn (‘a) and seventy of his companions during the period of the Imam of the Time wearing golden helmets. The return (raj‘ah) and revival of Hadrat al-Husayn (‘a) will be announced by them to the people so that the believers would not entertain doubt and skepticism.
This will occur while Hadrat al-Hujjah (‘atfs) will be among the people. When knowledge and faith in him will be well-embedded in their hearts, the demise of Hadrat Hujjah will come. Then, Hadrat Imam al-Husayn (‘a) will take charge of his ghusl (ritual bath for the dead), his shrouding (kafn), embalmment (hunut), and burial. A non-wasiyy (executor of will) will never prepare the burial of a wasiyy.”2
Zuhri said: “Hadrat al-Mahdi (‘atfs) will live for fourteen years and then he will meet the Lord by natural death.”3
Artah said: “It has been narrated to me that Hadrat al-Mahdi (‘atfs) will live for forty years. Then, he will die a natural death on his bed.”4
Ka‘b al-Ahbar5 said: “The victor (mansur) of this ummah is al-Mahdi, and the inhabitants of the earth and the birds in the sky send salutations to him.
“It is he who will be tested in the war with Rome and other great battles. This test will take twenty years. Along with two thousand of his standard-bearing commanders he will attain martyrdom. Afterward, there will be no tragedy more painful than the martyrdom of Hadrat al-Mahdi (‘atfs) after the tragedy of the demise of the Messenger of Allah (S).”6
Of course, in my opinion, the statements of Zuhri, Artah and Ka‘b are unreliable unless the opposite is proved.
Regarding the manner of the martyrdom of Imam al-Mahdi (‘atfs), it has been stated in Ilzam an-Nasib, thus: “When his seventieth year comes to an end and his death is about to take place, a woman named Sa‘idah from the tribe of Bani Tamim will martyr him. The salient feature of that woman is that she would have a beard like a man.
“When the Imam is passing by, she will throw a stone from a rooftop upon him and he will attain martyrdom. After he passes away, Imam al-Husayn (‘a) will perform the rites of his ghusl, kafn and burial.”7
Of course, with the exception of this book, I have not found this subject written anywhere else, i.e. the manner of martyrdom of the Imam.
Imam as-Sadiq (‘a) said: “Husayn (‘a), along with his companions who were martyred with him, will come8 and seventy prophets will accompany them just as Hadrat Musa was accompanied by seventy dispatched persons. Then, Hadrat al-Qa’im (‘atfs) will turn over his ring to him. Imam al-Husayn will perform Hadrat al-Qa’im’s ghusl, kafn, hunut, and burial.”